Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Coolest Heracles Ever!

Joe as Heracles (a.k.a. Hercules, Alcides and "the glory of Hera")

Our little Gods and Goddesses requested that today - their final day of first grade - be spent entirely on Greek Mythology.

We were more than happy to oblige.

This year we read, retold and acted out many Greek myths as students fought over chose favorite characters to dramatize. Popular figures included Athena, Andromeda, Perseus, Poseidon, Zeus, Hades, Persephone, Odysseus, and Hera.

But none proved more riveting than Heracles and his twelve labors.

In anticipation of our day, Joe entered this morning decked out in full Heracles attire (sans the pelt of the Nemean Lion).  He told us he stayed up past 9:00 last night working on his sword and shield, although my favorite part is the Ruffles potato chip bag wrist guards.

The story of Heracles is expertly
told in Hera by George O'Connor
So, we happily spent our morning reading The Twelve Labors of Hercules whilst the children challenged this text for not providing the proper background and motivation behind the story.

They learned those details from the magnificent George O'Connor and his exquisite Olympians graphic novel book series.

As our final day together drew to a close our impressive students selected one labor (the capture of the Cretan Bull) to act out.  They worked together to assign roles and create the setting before packing up for a final goodbye.

As they lined up for dismissal our young Heracules became a sensitive little boy once again. He hugged me for a really long time and told me he is going to miss me.

I will miss him too.

I will miss all of them.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Those Who Open Our Eyes

Many times in my life  I have fallen in love with the works of a brilliant playwright, author, philosopher, educator or actor only to realize that they have shuffled off this mortal coil.

And sometimes they were walking towards the exit just as I entered.  It's as if I looked down to discover the cigarette still burning but found myself in an empty room.

It was that way with Tennessee Williams.  I became addicted to his work and life in the autumn of 1983 only to realize he had died earlier that same year.  That realization hit hard because I imagined us sipping cocktails together in Key West whilst he shamelessly flirted and regaled me with stories of southern women and lobotomies.

I also missed out on a walk through Chartres Cathedral with Joseph Campbell, a dinner party with Laurence Olivier, and a fireside chat with Charles Dickens (although his cigarette was ash long before my obsession kicked in).

However, with Dr. Maxine Greene I got it right!

Recently I was lucky enough to attend a fantastic workshop with Dr. Greene through The Academy for Teachers (which I wrote about here).

Yesterday I received an email informing me of the sad news of her passing.  It turns out that her talk with us was her last.  And so ends a life of "passionate purpose".

I feel fortunate that I was able to hold her hand and look into her eyes to thank her for honoring teachers.  When she looked back at me it was with sincere gratitude for the work that I do, for the work all teachers are doing.  She said it was our work that informed and enriched hers.

At 96, she had such palpable passion and energy.  I was moved by the fact that she wanted to keep the conversation going and looked forward to conversing through emails.  Although her aging body was betraying her, her mind stayed sharp.  

Maxine Greene always seemed to be looking for a challenge, to find the places of discomfort and unrest so the struggle could bring a new level of understanding.

That workshop was an inspiration.

I look forward to continuing to learn more about her work and remain grateful that I didn't miss an opportunity to spend time with this incredible woman.


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